The first sign that a parent should look for if he suspects that his kid has autism is how the child responds to a social stimuli (examples: smile, touch, and hug). Failure to give proper responses could be a sign of a delay in social development or a brain development disorder like autism. Other signs include:
- Does not demonstrate eye contact;
- Does not begin or maintain conversation;
- Tendency to make very few friends;
- Inability to recognize faces or emotions; and,
- May display aggressive behaviors.
The first three years of a child's life are marked with accelerated developments in the brain which are critical to the development of speech. During this period, the brain is very absorbent to languages and the nuances of communication. Thus, a normal child will reach milestones in speech development during this time at a very fast rate. But, for children with autism, these developments are somewhat impossible to attain. While they may start babbling at the age of six months, most of them may be stuck at that until a few months later. The following communication impairments should raise a flag:
- Failure to babble or to produce repetitive syllables at the age of six months
- Development of unusual gestures
- Parroting of other people's vocalization or echolalia (Although echolalia is a typical milestone of speech development, normal children tend to outgrow it. Autistic children don't unless their speech follows a normal development.);
- Use of reverse pronouns or misapplication of pronouns (Reverse pronouns is a condition whereby an autistic child refers to himself using his proper name or pronouns like "you", "she", or "he". This condition is closely related to echolalic speech);
- Inability to properly perform joint attention (This is a condition wherein the usage of nonverbal cues or gestures calls another person's attention towards a particular stimulus. Autistic children do not have this capacity. It is common for them to look at the finger that points the object instead of look at the object that is being pointed-at. They also lack the ability to point at objects.);
- Diminished responsiveness (Children with autism do not respond well to most stimulus.); and,
- Because they lack the skills that can help them communicate with people, they cannot share their feelings or demonstrate their ideas.
There are many forms of repetitive and restrictive behaviors that are associated with autism. These include:
- Compulsive behavior or intense focus on sticking with a certain rule or routine;
- Tendency to stick with a pattern of behaviors, otherwise known as ritualistic behavior;
- Tendency towards sameness (Children with autism do not like being disturbed or seeing their things removed from their usual places.);
- Performing repetitive movements such as head rolling and spinning ;
- Tendency to perform behaviors that can injure oneself or another person; and,
- Intense focus or concentration on a particular object
It should be noted that an autism behavior checklist is far from becoming a diagnostic tool. It is, nevertheless, very helpful for many parents to confirm whether their kids have autism or not. If your kid zeroed in the checklist, congratulations. However, if you have a feeling that your child's behaviors are somewhat suspicious, you should start considering seeking expert advice.